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Rail News: Labor

BLET President Pierce to retire


Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) National President Dennis Pierce today announced in a prepared statement that he will retire when his term ends Dec. 31.

Pierce, who’s led BLET for more than a decade, had run for reelection in the union’s national election held earlier this month. The BLET announced this week it would certify the results and publicly announce them on Dec. 19. However, on Dec. 12, the votes cast by eligible members were counted and Edward Hall, a locomotive engineer at Union Pacific Railroad, received 4,331 votes, while Pierce received 3,822 votes. 

In today’s statement to BLET members, Pierce outlined issues over the election that meant it would have to be held again. Rather than be a candidate in that revote, he would retire, he said.

Pierce's announcement follows a bitter campaign and comes on the heels of the controversial multiyear contract between the nation’s major freight railroads and 12 rail unions, including BLET. 

Although a majority of BLET members approved the tentative agreement, it was ratified by a slim margin. Some members criticized Pierce for signing on to the tentative deal reached with the railroads in September, after the Biden administration got involved in the negotiations. Four other unions refused to approve the deal. To avert a national rail strike, Congress stepped in and earlier this month passed legislation requiring the railroads and all unions to accept the contract.

Pierce said his decision to step down was not easy.

"Whether or not any member agrees or disagrees with the difficult decisions that I have had to make as national president, I have always put the membership and our union as an institution first and foremost. For that very reason, I will not subject this Brotherhood to the further division that would be caused by a rerun election," Pierce said.

Pierce also addressed some of the division and bitterness during the election.

"I leave office with a request of all BLET members. I ask that those who manage social media pages that incite division against other members and officers shut those pages down too," Pierce stated. "If President-Elect Hall and the Advisory Board that he will preside over are to have any chance at success, the hateful rhetoric, division and infighting fostered by social media and egged on by outside nonmember forces must end."

Pierce added: "The membership must stand united in the fight against the rail carriers, and stop blaming their union and its officers for the actions of those carriers."

Pierce's full statement can be read here